What are you reading?

A weekly look over the shoulders of our scholar-reviewers.

April 16, 2009

Tim Hall is a lecturer in human geography at the University of Gloucestershire. He is reading Roberto Saviano: Gomorrah: Italy’s Other Mafia (Pan Books, 2008): “a visceral exposé of the ways in which the tentacles of organised crime penetrate all aspects of the Naples economy, something typically overlooked in conventional economic analysis.”

Ronald Hutton is professor of history, University of Bristol. “The literal truth is that I am rereading rather than reading books at most points, for research purposes. They tend to be colourful: currently Marion Zimmer Bradley’s The Mists of Avalon and J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. The only brand-new title through which I am working at present is for review – the edition of essays made by Patrick Little for Palgrave, Oliver Cromwell: New Perspectives. It is mostly by young historians, gathered around the History of Parliament Trust, and seems to show him as more fond of money and power than his recent biographers had thought, while still remaining a godly hero driven by conscience.”

Andreas Hess teaches sociology at University College Dublin. He regrets confining his choice to an English-language book, “because there is so much good yet untranslated stuff out there it beggars belief. At the moment I am reading How Professors Think: Inside the Curious World of Academic Judgement (Harvard University Press, 2009) by Michèle Lamont. If you want to know how peer review works (and occasionally doesn’t), this is the book.”

Alex Danchev is professor of international relations, University of Nottingham. He is reading Victor Serge, translated by Richard Greeman: Unforgiving Years (NYRB Classics, 2008). “It’s a rare thing: a panoramic novel of revolutionary politics, by an authentic revolutionary.”

June Purvis is professor of women’s and gender history, University of Portsmouth. She is reading Mark Bostridge’s Florence Nightingale: The Woman and Her Legend (Viking, 2008) – “a highly readable, fine account of this well-known Victorian nurse and administrator, which powerfully cuts through the myth of the nurturing ‘lady with the lamp’ to reveal a talented woman of iron will – and Ffion Hague’s The Pain and the Privilege: The Women in Lloyd George’s Life (Harper Press, 2008), which “tells the story of the wife and lovers of the devious, manipulative Lloyd George, who audaciously installed his mistress, Frances Stevenson, at 10 Downing Street – casting a different light on a man whom the suffragette leaders regarded as slippery and a trickster, yet eventually was influential in granting the parliamentary vote to certain categories of women over the age of 30 in 1918.”

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